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Poetry and Medicine
August 1, 2007

Don’t Use My Blood

Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor. Poems may be submitted to jamapoems@jama-archives.org.

JAMA. 2007;298(5):493. doi:10.1001/jama.298.5.493

The Confidential Self-Exclusion Sticker lets the donor indicate anonymously that his/her blood should not be used for transfusion if he/she is donating under peer pressure or other strained circumstances. —The American Red Cross

Don't trust my smile
no matter how I gush
at you from the tilted chair
letting blood
run into your plastic bag.
My heart is sick. My pint is venomous.
Don't trust my words.
I lied to every question on your form.
I have “taken/given money in exchange for sex”
with men and women,
not “even once,” but many times.
I've been “unprotected” in love
in despair, in loneliness—
in New York and Miami,
in Java and in Niamey, Niger.
I lived for those connections.
That's why I come to you.
Don't trust my eyes.
Though I look away from the quick stab
into the swabbed and swollen mainline
of my tied-off radial vein,
I'm not afraid. I share ungodly needles
all the time. Like yours
they make me feel giddy and generous,
light-headed and brave.
Unpunctured night
turns rank and malarial.
Rats have bitten me.
Such things leave their mark.
Don't use my blood.
I offer it for nothing,
a sacrament unfit for you to touch.
Tape that red cross
in the hinge of my arm.
Take the scarlet button,
pin it to my chest.
Change Be nice,
I gave blood today.
Write Love me,
I have drained my heart.